Monday, 22 August 2016

Night of the Storm - Romantic Suspense 99 Cents 99p Excerpt and Details

Set in Rhodes and on the fictional island of Asteri off the Turkish coast, Night of the Storm involves Melissa, a young photographer, who travels to Greece to investigate the true story of her boyfriend's death and uncovers a wildlife smuggling syndicate trying to peddle a very rare and valuable animal.

(If you like romantic suspense set in the Greek islands, why not also try The English Daughter, set in Corfu?)

99p on Amazon UK 

99 Cents on Amazon 



Excerpt Below

PROLOGUE


Andrew sat on the cliff below the castle wall and watched the sky. Far below, the Aegean was a deep rust in the setting sun. Wind gusted against his back. At his feet barley and rockroses, a cushion of yellow vetch growing in the ruins, small red and white flowers whose names Melissa would know.
Down on the beach men moved, dark shapes against the sand. A small boat rode at anchor. Stiffly, Andrew shifted position. From the corner of his eye he saw a stocky, dark-haired man standing a bottle of retsina down on a rock, wiping it carefully with a handkerchief. He nodded a greeting.
Then, to his left, another movement -

Two men looked down at him. One pushed at his body with a foot. 'He's out cold, no problem. Do it.' The other spun the cap from the bottle, poured the contents over Andrew, put the bottle between the sleeping fingers. Then they both rolled him over the edge.
A rattle of falling scree, then silence.


CHAPTER 1


England, 1996

'I should have known I'd find you here.'
The cool voice cut through the beat of straining wings. Gulls, oystercatchers and sanderling were exploding from an English estuary, darkening the ice-blue March sky. Katherine Hopkins had just marched straight across the sands, disturbing hundreds of birds roosting on the beach.
'And a good day to you, too,' Melissa said dryly, squinting up at the tall figure. Freezing and cramped after lying motionless behind a breakwater for hours, she had just lost a shot: a vital consideration since nature photography was part of her living.
'You're full of surprises, Katherine,' she observed now through chill-flayed lips. 'I thought you only liked your animals stuffed or sautéed.'
'Always so sure of yourself,' answered Katherine, 'Always so right.' She ignored the sights and sounds of alarm around them: birds did not buy anything. Coming to look the site over in private, she had been intensely irritated to realise that Melissa Haye was there first.
'But you've never actually beaten me. I always win in the end. Don't I?'
Melissa shrugged and snapped the cap onto her 600mm lens, fingers tingling with returning life. Unlike her own windswept hair, not a strand of Katherine's dark chignon stirred in the crisp air. Looking over business-dynamo Katherine Hopkins, the trousers tailored to those sleek legs, the scarlet jacket and silken cravat, Melissa wondered why an intelligent woman should find it so hard to accept that anyone was different from her.
What was done was done. Because of local opposition and a campaign spearheaded by Melissa herself, Katherine had failed to build one of her Total Woman Centres on this estuary. To Katherine the horseshoe of cliffs, the closer profile of river and sea, sands and reedbeds, mudflats and marsh, was a barren landscape, evocative as the moon but unproductive.
'Remember the paper which "no longer required" you?' Katherine continued, grinding a razorshell under one green boot. 'Remember the "lost" photo commissions? That was down to me. A couple of phone calls in the right places was all it took.'
'Now you've reminded me...' Melissa scooped a beanbag camera-support, hat and veiling into jacket pockets, her back icy where Katherine's shadow fell. It would be great, she thought, if Katherine could let the past alone, but, on and off, Kate Hopkins had been trying a long time to block her career. Looking back, Melissa acknowledged that Katherine's vindictiveness had actually spurred her on by making her do more, try harder. She laughed softly.
'I never thanked you for that, did I?' She glanced up again at her nemesis. They both knew why Katherine detested her. It had nothing to do with Melissa's work.
Katherine's patrician cheekbones turned a delicate pink. 'What is your problem?' she demanded. 'Total Woman Centres provide a service for thousands.'
At fifty pounds an entry ticket, Melissa wondered how many thousands were being favoured. Katherine though was a woman with a mission: already, at thirty-four, one of the wealthiest women in Britain, with her 24-hour shopping and healthcare stores established in every major city in Europe. Her business didn't need more expansion, but Katherine was greedy.
'A pity, then, that the people here voted to leave things as they are.' Cradling her camera, sweeping a rapid look over the area she had been stalking to make sure she would forget none of her photo gear, Melissa rose stiffly to her feet. The waders would not settle now until she and Katherine were gone.
'You can't possibly pretend it ends now,' snapped Katherine. 'This is a prime site...'
'I know.' The estuary was a focal point for local families. In summer, these sands rang with children's voices. In winter, mudflats and saltings upstream tingled to the cries of curlew.
Melissa smiled, then frowned, the taste of sea-salt catching for an instant in her throat. 'We should go.' Accustomed to numbness in her legs after a photo-shoot, she started to limp briskly towards the dunes.
'....perfect for the sensitive development I had proposed -'
Abruptly Katherine broke off, instinctively shying away as a storm of Brent geese flew in overhead. Melissa stopped, throwing back her blonde head to track the birds gossiping and grunting in flight: an everyday miracle. 'Amazing!' she murmured, thirst and cold forgotten.
The dark chattering swarm sharpened her responses to the estuary. Andrew should have been here to see this, she thought, hands tightening on the camera.
Memories, too strong to be denied, welled in her. As grief threatened to break out again, it helped Melissa to know that Andrew's favourite place was safe: that she and the local people who had once been Andrew's neighbours had made it safe.
'Wide-eyed enthusiasm doesn't work with me. Is that how you won the locals over, turning on the little girl charm?' Pausing when she did, Katherine was looking at her sidelong.
Melissa clicked her tongue and chuckled: she was actually grateful for Katherine's presence and sharp comments. 'You'll never know. Meetings are over, and so is the voting. People like their sand and "mud" as it is.'
'So it would seem.' Green eyes showed gold for an instant as Katherine acknowledged that unpalatable fact. Dismissing the estuary development from her immediate calculations with a brisk shake of her head, Katherine moved when Melissa did, keeping pace with her opponent as they left the beach and began to thread through the tall, twisting corridors of dunes.
As they walked, Melissa moving sure as a skier over soft dry sand and clumps of tough marram grass, Katherine's green eyes flashed up her sand-coloured fatigues and gloves, flitted over the younger woman's delicate complexion, gold brows and lashes, shoulder length silky blonde hair. Her rival would probably have to diet to stop those soft body curves, the round lines of an open face, neat nose, from blurring into flab.
Katherine's lips twitched with satisfaction. Those who thwarted her always paid. Melissa Haye had lost before, but it seemed she had still not learned her lesson. Throughout the last decade, their paths had crossed too often, both professionally and personally.
Andrew Thornhill had been Katherine's personal assistant and occasional lover. Recognising how his attractively-uneven, maturing looks and ready enthusiasm could be a foil to her poised, subtle fire, she had given him the chance of a great career. Yet he had been a disappointment, preferring the safe Melissa Haye.
Katherine's lips tensed, umber sculptured eyebrows drawing together as she negotiated a litter of pebbles and feathers on the narrowing dune path. Although it had piqued her to be rejected for some romping teenager, it had cost her nothing. Andrew had been young, and so could be excused his choice. She had wished him well, and it seemed he had been happy - he had lived with Melissa Haye until his sudden death in Rhodes, two years ago.
Old history. Katherine shook herself, consigning Andrew Thornhill to oblivion, and returned to her present enemy now peeling off her gloves, that prying long lens nestled in the crook of an arm.
'I'm watching you, Melissa Haye. One day you're going to make a serious mistake.'
The threat: always a good sign she was doing her job, reflected Melissa wryly. Behind, the distant tide hissed in her ears like an indrawn breath.
'Then we'll see who pays.'
There it was, a gold-plated promise of revenge. Melissa was surprised at how little she felt.
'Nothing to say?' Katherine liked proof of attention.
Melissa sighed. 'Can't we call a truce for once, Katherine?' Fishing into a trouser pocket for her favourite silver seahorse earrings, she hooked them deftly into her ears whilst cresting a dune-top and dipping down the other side. These silver seahorses were special: Andrew had bought them for her on Rhodes...
Katherine was coming at her again, leaning forward as she kicked through rabbit-marked sand. Her wide, up-tilting eyes were sharp.
'You disgust me,' she said, scornful of any olive branch. Her rapid gaze, fixing on Melissa's silver seahorse jewellery, became dismissive. 'Everything you are. Everything you stand for. Cross me again and I'll finish you for good.'
Katherine pushed past Melissa, striding on towards the track and her black four-wheel drive, towards civilisation and her plans for revenge.


CHAPTER 2


Clutching her camera, Melissa stared out to sea. She no longer thought of Katherine's threats. The past had returned.
Andrew Thornhill, with his straight brown hair, craggy nose and keen smile. Six-one in his stockinged feet, and broadening. He had blushed when he first saw her at the local wildlife group meeting at Wells-next-the-Sea. Later, walking with Melissa by the sea shore, Andrew had asked her out. He was twenty then, Melissa seventeen.
They had lived together for eight years.
Still the memories flowed. His walk, his voice, his scent. His lethal sloe gin. His listening face. His hilarious imitation of a love-struck diplomat. The way he double-knotted his shoelaces. The way he liked 'messing about' round rock-pools. The way he made love -
'Stop this!' The heavy camera trembled on Melissa's arm. Andrew had died two years ago, and still she was struggling to come to terms with it. She had to get away, find a different direction. But there was something she had to do first: a secret, private mission behind her next assignment.
Her bags were always packed. She loved roving - new places, new people. She was due to go to Greece in April, the peak time for the amazing spring flowering and bird migration in the region, stay on the remote eastern island of Asteri, just off the coast from Turkey, whilst she researched her latest travel series: 'Paradise under Threat.' She could bring that trip forward, fly to Rhodes, take the light airplane to Asteri.
It would be expedient to drop out of circulation in England until a certain brunette forgot her. Kate Hopkins had a spiteful memory and a long business arm.
Melissa laid her camera down and sat on the shadowed side of the dunes, nimble fingers digging into the cold sand. The ebbing, mournful cry of a curlew dragged at her insides as she swallowed, faintly nauseated.
Remembering....
Two years ago, due to join Andrew on Rhodes for a holiday, she had been summoned instead to identify his body.

Lindsay Townsend 

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Guest blog: Shelly Alexander - 'It's In His Smile'

She’s risking it all on a dream career…until his smile convinces her to risk her heart on love.

Miranda Cruz isn’t just the best darned waitress in town anymore; she’s Red River’s newest innkeeper. All she has to do is renovate the inn, find the contractor that has disappeared with her life’s savings, and prove that she is the respectable business owner she’s always dreamed of being. Easy, right? Especially for the intelligent Miss Cruz who never depends on anyone, including a man. Until a gorgeous old flame shows up and reignites a fire that has been simmering for seven long years and could send her dreams up in smoke.

Acclaimed environmental architect, Talmadge Oaks, returns home to Red River to settle family business. He plans to get in and get out as quickly as possible because a professional catastrophe is waiting for him back in the Pacific Northwest. When an unforeseen snag keeps him in Red River longer than expected, he finds himself entangled with the floundering renovations of his late grandmother’s old Victorian inn. Handy with a hammer, Talmadge offers to help the inn’s beautiful new owner, but his motives aren’t completely selfless. Will his secret demolish everything they are building? Or will their undeniable passion and love be enough to hold them together?
Excerpt from Chapter 1:


Miranda Cruze was sure that getting hot and bothered at a wake broke at least one of the unwritten rules of funeral etiquette. Especially since she was the hostess.
Ms. Bea, Miranda’s friend and mentor, deserved more respect.
The scent of freshly baked oatmeal and raisin cookies drifted over the bar that separated the kitchen from the dining area to fill the room and hopefully bring some comfort to the mourners. Miranda pulled the last batch from the oven and dished them onto a plate with a spatula.
The heat climbing up her legs to settle between her thighs was from the oven, right?
Right. Of course it was the oven. Or her black formfitting pants. She probably should’ve bought the next size up.
It definitely was not because of Bea’s hot and handsome grandson, Talmadge. His mere presence was absolutely not the cause of her throat turning to chalk dust or her rusty girl parts turning a flip or her need to stay on the other side of the funeral parlor, the other side of the graveside service, and the other side of the room. All damn day. Until she felt like she’d been playing a game of keep-away and he was it.
No, the heat seeping into every single inch of her five-feet-two-inch body was not because of Red River’s prodigal son--a leader in green architecture made famous for his environmentally friendly designs and for bringing hotel chains around the world into the age of energy efficiency--come home to bury his beloved grandmother.
Definitely the oven. She kicked it closed with her black ankle-booted foot. With a toss, her oven mitt landed on the outdated Formica counter.
When she’d bought the small Victorian inn just off Red River’s Main Street from Bea Oaks five months ago, she hadn’t considered that her first public event would be to mourn the loss of her old friend. She hadn’t considered that she’d have to figure out how to run an inn on her own without Bea’s experience and advice. She hadn’t considered that before opening for business, the renovations would chew up most of her savings from waiting tables since she was fifteen.
Obviously, Miranda needed to spend more time considering.
She waded through the ocean of mourners, offered condolences, sidestepped a few boxes of tile that her contractor still hadn’t installed, and placed the fresh plate of cookies on the table of picked-over food.
She arranged a few serving dishes, straightened the stack of napkins, made sure enough clean silverware was available. And then she had no choice but to turn her attention to the roomful of saddened guests who had no idea how much Miranda was really going to miss Beatrice Oaks.
No one except...
Miranda’s stare settled on Talmadge, who was standing on the far side of the inn’s large dining room. His injured arm in a sling under his suit jacket, he chatted with a middle-aged couple.
For the tiniest moment, her heart beat in an odd cadence before it caught the right rhythm again.
She had known Talmadge would come to his grandmother’s funeral. Of course he would. But a small part of her had hoped he wouldn’t show. Another teensy weeny part of her had hoped he would.
Wouldn’t. Would. Wouldn’t. Would.
And then there he had been, his broad shoulders filling the funeral parlor doorway. Eyes rimmed in red for the grandmother who’d raised him.
As they’d done then, her insides were back to doing the jive like she was a contestant on Dancing with the Stars. Or a pole dancer at a gentlemen’s club. Because Miranda was pretty sure that only a person of questionable habits would have carnal thoughts at a funeral.
Another wave of heat flamed through her. Gah!
Sandy hair slicked back, Talmadge’s strong jaw moved as he spoke to the middle-aged couple. Mid sentence he turned and locked gazes with Miranda like he knew she’d been watching him. His lips stopped moving, and he just stared at her.
The hint of a smile settled onto his lips, and she suddenly found it hard to breathe.
Her gaze flitted away, and she offered a kind word to a guest who walked past, then busied herself with rearranging the food. Maybe the ham should go next to the mashed potatoes? Should her homemade oatmeal cookies really be next to the sauerkraut? And should her obnoxious female pheromones be spewing sexual attraction so close to the deviled eggs?
That might actually be a health department violation, now that she thought about it. Note to self: no pheromone spewing when the inspectors come to give their stamp of approval.
Talmadge returned his attention to the couple, shook the man’s hand, and headed...toward her.

Shelly Alexander

Biography

#1 Bestseller in Contemporary Romance
#1 Bestseller in Contemporary Women's Fiction
#1 Bestseller in Romantic Comedy
#1 Bestseller in Romantic Series

A 2014 Golden Heart® finalist, Shelly Alexander grew up traveling the world, earned a bachelor's degree in marketing, and worked in the business world. With four older brothers and a sister, she watched every Star Trek episode ever made, joined the softball team instead of ballet class, and played with G.I. Joes while the Barbie Corvette stayed tucked in the closet. When she had three sons of her own, she decided to escape her male-dominated world by reading romance novels and has been hooked ever since. Now, she spends her days writing sassy and steamy contemporary romances while tending to a miniature schnauzer name Omer, a tiny toy poodle named Mozart, and a pet boa constrictor named Zeus.


For updates on new releases and sales, visit my website and sign up for my newsletter: http://shellyalexander.net/


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Friday, 12 February 2016

Lindsay Townsend: 'The English Daughter' Romantic Suspense - Only 99p/99Cents

Young widow Val Baker restores musical instruments, but fears her relationship with her Greek-Italian family on Corfu is broken beyond repair.

Returning to the island to work on a rare piano belonging to her Greek friend Alexia, she finds her dreams haunted by memories of Hilary; a young English girl raped and murdered ten years before. Val determines to uncover the truth about the case, and set to rest her own doubts about the involvement of her father, Yiannis, and half-brother, Markos, both policemen who were involved in the original investigation.

Joined by her friend Harry, Val begins to unravel the threads. When two strange tokens arrive, one for Alexia's daughter Chloe and one for Val, it becomes clear that Hilary's unknown killer is on Val's trail. Her search for the truth becomes a race for life.

Previously published by Severn House.


Buy the ebook now: Amazon UK Amazon USA
Also in Audio


Read Chapter One

Another excerpt:

They returned to an arcaded street where they could stroll side by side, and Harry released Val’s fingers. Perversely, Val was disappointed.

‘Wait, please.’ Harry crouched in the middle of the alley to retie one shoelace. Steve and Judith pushed round them. Judith, counting caged birds, called, ‘There’s another!’

Staring down at Harry, Val wondered if he was trying to put her off balance. Even as she thought it, he glanced up, straight at her. ‘How about that visit to your workshop right now?’

‘No cemetery?’ Val teased back.

Harry laughed, but said, ‘Or you go on alone there, if you want. Time in your own place.’ He rose, looking her up and down, his face hardening. ‘You’ve had enough today.’

Did she trust Harry? Could she really rely on him?

‘Val.’ Harry’s voice returned Val to the middle of the alley. ‘What do you say? A simple yes will do.’

Since when did he become so bossy? Val marvelled, uncertain what to make of this new Harry. She opened her mouth but was forestalled by Judith. Her daughter ran back up the street and cannoned into her legs.

‘There’s a poster round the corner of Beauty and the Beast! Can we go, Mummy, please?’

Val drew Judy out of the road and knelt in front of her daughter. Had she and Judith been alone, she would have happily gone to see her child’s favourite film, but asking Steve or Harry to do so was unfair.

‘Judy, I don’t think—’ she began, when Steve touched her arm.

‘It’s no problem,’ he said, quietly. ‘There’s a film starting in about twenty minutes. Won’t do me any harm.’

Harry took out his wallet and thrust a wad of euros at Steve. ‘Have an ice-cream while you’re about it,’ he remarked, nodding at Judy.

Val admitted it made sense. Her workshop really wasn’t the place for Judy and they all needed a lift after that family reunion.

‘Right, but come straight back to the workshop as soon as the film’s over. You’re clear about the address? And you know where you’re going?

‘You put Steve up to that,’ she said, waving them off, watching until they had turned the corner.

‘Did I?’ Harry was looking past her, right over her head.

‘What?’ Val turned, her eye drawn to a poster celebrating the return of the ‘International Performer’ Stefan Gregory to Corfu. Hear him live at the Achillion! the poster proclaimed, a horrible irony. ‘I need a newspaper, Harry.’

‘There’s a little shop three doors down. I’m sure they’ll sell them.’ Harry stepped round Val and was off. ‘You’ll translate the crime reports?’ he called back. ‘I still don’t read Greek so well.’

Val trotted to catch up. ‘Why do you want to know?’

Harry swung round. ‘No, Val. The question is, why do you?’

‘Why are you still thinking like a policeman? You’re as bad—’ Val stopped the rest of the complaint. She didn’t want her father or Markos shadowing them, least of all Markos.

As bad as Nick, finished Harry in his own mind. Maybe he should go after Judy and Steve. The rest of this evening was going to be a bust.



‘This is it.’ Val set her shoulder to the workshop door.

‘Good God,’ Harry said.

‘You like it?’ Val was surprised. Most visitors to Nonno’s workshop were overwhelmed. Nick had said, ‘How do you move in here?’ but Harry entered the room as she did, with a quiet confidence.

They breathed in together, sharing the scents of resin, polish and wood. His eyes were everywhere, taking in the dismantled pianos, lighting on the old hard swatches of felt, sweeping to the stone sink in the corner and up the walls with their shelves and tools. He turned about in a circle.

‘Whenever I picture you at work, I’ll always see you here.’

Val nodded, swallowing. She was foolishly touched by Harry’s sensitivity and ashamed of her earlier churlishness. ‘I’m sorry.’

‘Don’t apologize. You say sorry far too much.’

She walked over to him. ‘Bend down - you’ve got a cobweb.’

Harry half crouched and she lifted spider and web off the bronzing temple close to his left ear, marvelling at the Viking hair, the thick golden brows and eyelashes, pitying his slightly receding hairline. She dangled the spider on the closed shutters, startled by her own disappointment that Harry had made no attempt to touch her in return.

The heat’s getting to me, she thought, turning from the shutters straight into Harry’s arms.

‘Hello,’ he said.

‘Hello back.’ Aware that the next move must come from her, she transferred the local newspaper from her left hand into both hands, gripping it in front of her, and rested her head against his breastbone.

There was no sense of wonder, or fireworks, as there had been with Nick. Val was oddly divorced from her senses. She didn’t want more than this floating peace. ‘I can’t—’

‘Sssh. It’s all right.’ He brushed her jaw with his fingers, seeking her chin to raise her head. ‘I only want to look at you.’

‘You’ve seen me lots of times,’ Val muttered at his stomach.

‘True, but not here.’

‘We’re not in Fenfield,’ she agreed, and lifted her face to his.

In the distance there was a knocking. Val didn’t connect it with the workshop until Harry placed a warning finger on her lips.

‘Let me in!’ Markos hammered on her door. As Val tensed, he kicked the solid black wood of the outer door and left without noticing that it was unlocked.

‘That was lucky,’ Val said, as his pounding feet faded away.

Harry spread a hand across the middle of her back and teased her closer. ‘You’ve already told me about Markos, but am I missing something?’

Val batted him with the paper. ‘Stop being a copper. It’s not important.’

‘Isn’t it?’

‘Leave it alone, Harry.’

‘Fair enough, Val.’ He released her and strode to the window, strumming his left hand down the length of one shutter. ‘What about that newspaper report you wanted to see?’

Sensing that even this activity would be the prelude to more questions, Val spread the paper on the bench. Harry came to stare over her shoulder.

‘Well?’ he prompted above her, leaning on his braced arm, his palm spread on the bench amongst a tiny, forgotten pile of old wood shavings.

‘It says very little.’ Even as she scanned the pages covering the latest murder, she wondered just how much her companion understood. Not only about the body found at the Achillion.

‘A young woman’s naked body, discovered amongst trees in the grounds of the Achillion,’ she paraphrased. ‘No one seems to know who she is, what nationality. It says she died of a broken neck.’

‘Her killer must be physically strong, then,’ said Harry.

Val’s fingers traced the lines. ‘The paper speaks of other wounds that the police won’t disclose. It doesn’t say she was raped, but people are already talking about the Achillion killer striking again.’

‘How many times has this happened? Bodies of naked young women found in a well-known beauty spot?’

‘I wouldn’t call the Achillion beautiful.’

‘Tourist spot. Whatever. What’s going on, Val? When Markos trumpeted his news, you went white.’

Why did she feel tempted to confess? ‘It was years ago,’ she said, covering her confusion by folding up the newspaper. ‘An English tourist called Hilary Moffat was killed here. She vanished from Corfu town and was found raped and murdered in the grounds of the Achillion the following night.’

‘What distances are we talking here? Between Corfu town and the Achillion?’

‘About ten kilometres. An easy road south.’

‘So it’s likely the killer had some kind of transport. And possibly an appealing manner, to lure the girl into it?’

‘I should think so.’ Val had considered these points long ago. ‘It would be hard to snatch someone off the streets: too many people would see.’

‘Were there any suspects the first time?’

Val shook her head. ‘I don’t know. The newspapers never mentioned anyone. No one was charged.’

‘And the first victim was also naked?’

Val nodded, blushing as Harry looked at her, his head tilted to one side so that he could see all her face.

‘You knew her.’

‘She was a music student like me, that’s all.’

She expected more - what, she couldn’t say. More questions, possibly. Instead, Harry’s face closed down as she spoke.

‘I see.’ He returned to his vantage point beside the shutters.

‘What? What do you see?’ Val became more exasperated as Harry smiled  and not a pleasant smile.

‘Not comfortable, is it, being shut out?’

‘I’m not . . . It’s difficult . . .’ Val stammered, alarmed by her unexpected wish to please Harry. ‘I’m probably crazy, anyway. Too many dreams.’

Harry wandered back to her, reached under the bench and lifted out her tall stool. ‘Why don’t we start again? You sit here and explain as much as you feel easy to tell me.’

Val sat on the stool and glanced at her watch.

‘We’ve plenty of time. The film won’t have started yet,’ Harry coaxed.

‘I know.’ Anxious about confessing her involvement with Hilary, Val chewed on her lower lip.

Harry crossed the stone flags yet again and peered through the gap in the shutters. ‘Nothing you say will change my good opinion of you— Hello! There’s someone outside. He’s coming here.’

A brisk rattling at the inner door.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Guest blog: Kimbra Kasch - 'Demon's Ink'

There are lots of dangerous things around Portland lately but, when a Demonic tattoo artist comes to town, everything goes to Hell, in DEMON’S INK.

This young adult novel is set in Portland, Oregon and with Halloween coming, you'll want to have a scary story to share...

That’s where DEMON'S INK comes in: It's about art, that's more than anyone bargained for.

Drake and Bartos come to the Pacific Northwest, where they open yet another tattoo shop but Bartos has no trouble dealing with the competition because there’s nothing normal about his art. And he’s stealing more than clients from the local skin artists. He's stealing their souls.

Customers fall in love with Bartos Slinderman’s tats but end up paying the ultimate price for their purchase because unlike Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray, they can’t walk away from this art and it’s beautiful until the artwork takes on a life of its own...


EXCERPT:


DRAKE

Expectations can ruin everything. Like thinking my senior year was going to be something special. What a set up that was.

I should have known better than to get my hopes up.

Ever.

I’d never been lucky. No one in my family was. I was probably only six when I’d heard grandpa say, “We come from a long line of losers.” He was talking to my Dad. I don’t even know about what. But, now, I know I should have listened to him.

Dad had already gone to prison, leaving Mom and me worse off than ever. And we were never good but, at least while he’d hung around, she managed to act like things were okay. Now she wasn’t even trying to pretend. Really it was way worse than that; she wasn’t even getting up off the couch any more.

I’d come home from school to find her passed out. The first couple times it freaked me out. Seeing her face-planted in the front room and not knowing whether she was alive or dead, I didn’t want to be the one to find her like that, to turn her over, to have to check to see if she was still breathing but I did. . . and I had no idea if she was high or drunk. I didn’t even care because what difference did it make? She was out of it. That was all that mattered.

So, after Dad went to jail, I was completely alone until Bartos made me a deal I couldn’t refuse but that was later.

For weeks, I’d come home after class and make a sandwich—if there was bread—otherwise it was a bowl of cereal for breakfast and dinner, sometimes I’d eat it dry because the milk had gone bad.

I knew I was going to have to get a job if I wanted to survive and I’d started looking around but that was right before everything changed.

It was late one Thursday evening. I still remember because I was thinking, “Only one more day…” I just didn’t know how right I was.

I don’t know what woke me up that night. Maybe it was the smell, the heat, the sound of my Mom screaming. I really don’t know. But I opened my eyes to the thick burning haze of a room filled with smoke.

I’d gone down into the basement that night and fallen asleep.

Looking around, I already knew there were no windows. I was trapped.

BUY THE BOOK HERE:


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ABOUT KIMBRA:

I'm a writer who grew up in a family with 9 kids and only 1 t.v. so I spent my days reading and, later, writing. I love books. . .maybe because I never got to pick t.v. shows we watched. But I’d run home after school to catch the last fifteen minutes of Dark Shadows...
 I still love to run...or maybe I should say wogging (a cross between walking and jogging). Here in Portland, I love Halloween themed runs - where people don costumes and run. It's a lot of fun...and I know those two words don't always go together: fun...and...run. But it is.
 And, with all those Halloween themed runs, I guess Dark Shadows had more of an influence than some people might think. Even today my favorite author is Stephen King. My all-time favorite book is Salem's Lot.
 Favorite romance novels are The Hunger Games...okay, I know, it's a survival book but it's really all about romance. Then there were the series: Twilight, True Blood, and more. I really love paranormal, Horror and sometimes even light books like Dewey the Small Town Library Cat... Mainly, I just love to read. . . and write.
 Sorry to be so long-winded but did I say I love to write? ...and talk and...knit, and sew, and bake... I could go on but I'll stop by saying, I hope you’ll stop in on my site and I can tell you I’m really excited to be sharing my young adult novel with you: Demon’s Ink.
Thanks for listening.

Friday, 31 July 2015

Guest blog: Mickie Sherwood - 'Templet's Tasty Tails'

Loss…life…love. What a difference a year makes!

Web Designer Erika Washington's contract with her childhood best friend covers all possibilities about her pregnancy. But, one unpredictable event redirects her future. As a donor-surrogate, what does one do when fate changes the plan and claims the lives of the intended parents? If you're selfless, strong-willed Erika Washington, you mount a defense to keep your baby.

Entrepreneur Booker Templet, owner of Templet's Tasty Tails, secretly agrees to help his first cousin. However, unfortunate circumstances change the course of his life. After he learns the identity of the other donor, Booker plans to be a part of his child's life. No matter what.

Will Erika and Booker battle over custody of the baby? Will their horrible loss help them find consolation in each other's arms? Or will fate intervene yet again?


Scene: After Booker becomes her client, Erika accepts his invitation to have a firsthand look at his business operations.

Enjoy an extended excerpt:
Erika stopped suddenly. "You've got to be kidding." She looked at the black rims with the silver, riveted studs.
"No. I mean every word."
"No," she contested. "Not that." Erika looked up at Booker, then at his truck. "That."
Laughing, Booker placed a hand on her shoulder. "See what I mean? A sense of humor on display."
"I can't climb up there." Although she adjusted the leg of her jeans, her protruding tummy hindered her knee lift.
"You don't have to." He uttered those words as he reached and cradled her in his arms.
"Put me down, Booker Templet."
"Erika." He looked her dead in her unbelieving eyes. "It's the only way to get you into the truck. Will you open the door for me, please?"
She did. "Now, put me down." Her tush met the leather seat.
Booker remained in the door as she buckled her seatbelt. Apparently satisfied with her handiwork, he rounded the front end. He slid one long leg in before settling into the driver's seat. After he cranked up, Booker hooked a right once he reached the road.
The serene countryside captured Erika's attention. She snapped shot after shot. When he reduced his speed, she realized they neared his business.
"That's the plant over there."
Erika traced his finger point to the aluminum-sided building and silos in the distance.
"Here's where most of my work is done." He drove off the road.
What Erika saw was green grass seeming to float in water. "Is that rice?"
"And she's smart, too." Booker laid a wrist over the steering wheel. "What's left of it. The crawfish pond is, also, where rice is grown. Flood. Drain. Harvest. Re-flood."
"Sounds like a vicious"—Erika watched him look over his field—"but profitable cycle."
While he sat in deep contemplation, she aimed her camera. The faint whir tempted him. Booker glanced her way, and Erika snapped again.
"Plus playful."
"You're such an easy target…I mean, an inviting subject."
"Ahh, Erika Washington. There's certainly more to you than meets the eye."
Erika pondered what Booker said, smiled at him, and then started taking shots of the area.
"Let me show you something." He left his seat. She saw him shed his cowboy boots for camouflage-green rubber boots from the truck bed. He came to her side. "May I?"
"At least you asked this time." Opening her door, she permitted him to pick her up.
Booker slushed through the bog to a patch of tall grass with her in his arms. "Get your camera ready."
Excited, Erika fumbled and almost dropped it. His quick recovery had her poised for the photo shoot. "A boat?"
"Yep. Specially designed for harvesting crawfish traps." Booker's diligence seated her carefully under the boat’s canvas tarp. "Would you like to go check a trap?" Hesitancy shone in his eyes. That was the first time he’d appeared unsure about anything.
"I don't run from new experiences. Let's do it," she said. Erika laughed, happy with the way the day progressed. He smiled.
They floated over to one of the markers that bobbed on the water. Booker elongated his body to grab the top. When he lifted his arm, up came a wire basket. Erika gripped it, too. Together they set it on the bottom of the boat.
"I can now add crawfish harvester to my list of accomplishments."
His eyes glinted.
"What's that look?"
"Pure admiration, Erika."
"Why, Booker Templet. I declare, sir," she did her Scarlett O'Hara impersonation, "I do believe you're being fresh."
Booker grinned then shook his head. As was his habit, he pulled at his ear.

Curious about what happens next?

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Bio:
Mickie Sherwood is an author and novice photographer who takes nature pictures right in her own backyard. She loves to engage in her favorite pastime which also incites her creativity. Combine that aspect of her life with the enjoyment of spending time with her family, and cruising vacations, and the development of interesting characters who encounter intriguing circumstances is not very far behind.


Check me out.


Friday, 24 July 2015

Guest Blog: Angela Britnell - 'The Reject Wedding Table'

Once on the reject table, always on the reject table? 

When Maggie Taylor, a cake decorator, and Chad Robertson, a lawyer from Nashville Tennessee, meet at a wedding in Cornwall it’s not under the best circumstances.

They have both been assigned to ‘the reject table’, alongside a toxic collection of grumpy great aunts, bitter divorcees and stuffy organists.

Maggie has grown used to being the reject, although when Chad helps her out of a wedding cake disaster she begins to wonder whether the future could hold more for her.

But will Chad be strong enough to deal with the other problems in Maggie’s life? Because a ruined cake isn’t the only issue she has – not by a long shot.

2nd novella in the Nashville Connections series.   First: What Happens in Nashville.

Buy here:




Excerpt:

Maggie couldn’t hold back a heavy sigh as she stared at the wedding reception seating chart.
‘Have they stuck you on the RT as well, honey?’
She glanced back over her shoulder and froze. Smiling right at her was the handsome stranger she’d noticed across the aisle in the church. She’d always been a pushover for a man with intriguing eyes and these were tawny, fringed with lashes so long and dark they should have been illegal, and sparkling with good humour. Stop that right now. You don’t do pick-ups at weddings. It’s undignified and desperate.
‘What on earth are you talking about?’ Her tone of voice was sharper than she’d intended.
‘The Reject Table.’ His deep smooth voice was laced with a delicious warm drawl she could’ve listened to all night. ‘Of course they wouldn’t call it that, they might gloss it over by using the term “Independents”, but we know the truth, don’t we?’
‘Do we?’ Maggie bristled. She refused to admit she knew precisely what he was talking about. She’d endured enough of these ritual humiliations while seeming unable to sustain a relationship long enough to change her Facebook status.
‘Yeah, sure do. I’m guessin’ your English ones are the same as ours. We’ll have the elderly maiden aunt, the bitter newly divorced third cousin, the grumpy dishevelled organist,’ he reckoned them all up on his long, well-shaped fingers, ‘and of course the mandatory gaggle of single strays.’
‘And which category do you fall into?’ Maggie’s brazen question shocked her into blushing hotly.
‘Take a wild guess,’ he challenged, and stepped closer so his arm brushed against hers.
God, he smells delicious. The tempting combination of spicy cologne, soap and something indefinably male wafted in the air and would’ve made her swoon – if she was the swooning type. Maggie’s middle name should’ve been Sensible.
‘Well, you’re obviously no one’s maiden aunt. The organist was sixty if he was a day and no one could describe you as dishevelled. By the process of elimination I’d say you’re the rogue transatlantic cousin representing the groom’s American grandmother who’s too old to travel.’ As soon as he’d spoken it’d clicked in her filing cabinet of a brain. She hadn’t helped the bride with the seating plans without gathering some useful information.
‘Spot on.’ His eyes darkened with surprise. ‘How about you?’ Maggie winced at his direct question. ‘Sorry, sore point?’
She lifted her chin and contrived to look unconcerned. ‘Not at all.’
‘Forgive me. I’m forgettin’ my manners all around today. I can’t believe I said that to a beautiful lady.’ He thrust out his right hand. ‘I’m Chad Robertson from Nashville in the great state of Tennessee. By day I’m a music attorney, and by night I turn into the rogue you rightly determined me to be. A single one, if you’re at all interested.’ The almost-question hung in the air between them.